A Surprise Blessing from an Alter Chassid

8/11/2015 12:30pm on assignment.

Portrait subject Rabbi Schneur Zalman Yudkin.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman Yudkin studied at Yeshiva Torah Im Derech Eretz gymnasium in Riga, the capital of Latvia before World War 2. The school involved Rabbi Hirsch, the great 19th-century Orthodox rabbi and leader of German Jewry who developed a curriculum featuring both Jewish studies and a secular program.

Seventy-five or so years later, in Crown Heights, portrait scheduled.

I arrived at the Rabbi's residence, a 2nd floor walk-up apartment in a far flung corner of the Crown Heights Hassidic Neighborhood. Ami Magazine, Rabbi Frankfurter, was already in mid interview as I schlepped in and set up the light. The interview was conducted, and concluded. Everyone took off save for the elderly Rabbi Yudkin and myself.

I had just started to pack up, when the rabbi started asking me about myself, in Yiddish of course. I answered as best as I could, both in Yiddish and English. Explained that I live in the neighborhood with my wife and two kids. The kids go to the local schools. Rabbi Yudkin, who I assume was in his 90s, asked me...demanded of me that he be given some equipment to help me pack and carry out the door. I politely rebuffed his offer. He insisted. I started carrying the heaviest pieces to the landing outside his door in preparation to go down the flight of stairs to the street. The Rabbi concernedly held the door for me as I went back and forth several times. Brought everything down to the exit door at the bottom of the stairs. Only the camera bag was left by the Rabbi. Before I could make my way back up the stairs Rabbi Yudkin was making his way down. One hand on the banister, one hand clutching my camera bag to his waist, lowly as if it were to slide out of his grasp. I walked with the Rabbi down the last few steps. Brought everything out to the car, the rabbi once again holding the door open for me all the while.

I was just about to pick up the last bag from the door, and the Rabbi took hold of my right hand....then the left. And started dancing. Right there at the door to the street. And then came the blessings. More Hebrew and Yiddish aphorisms than I had the wherewithal or the ability to separate one from the other. He concluded the blessings with more dancing, and now this time with song:"אפתח לכם את ארובות השמים והריקותי לכם ברכה עד בלי די" roughly translating to "I will open you the windows of heaven and heap upon you blessings to no end."


Thank you Rabbi Yudkin